Markelle Fultz took his late-game error in Friday’s loss hard. The Orlando Magic guard showed maturity in putting in a strong effort the next night out.
Around midnight Friday night, Orlando Magic guard Markelle Fultz posted a message on his Instagram story. On a black background in white type, Markelle Fultz posted, “There is no such thing as failure, only learning experiences.”
About an hour earlier, Fultz made the biggest error of his professional career so far. With the Orlando Magic clinging to a one-point lead against the Phoenix Suns, Markelle Fultz got the edge on Ricky Rubio and went to the basket. But he had a moment of indecision. He had gotten himself too deep and tried to sling the ball back out to Evan Fournier at the 3-point line.
That was the mistake. It is a cardinal sin to save the ball under your own basket for the exact thing that happened next.
The Suns got a fast break and set up Devin Booker for the go-ahead 3-pointer. Orlando had lost the lead in two possessions and had to scramble to get the lead back. They never would.
Fultz took the mistake hard in comments after the game. He owned the error and put the loss on him. Coach Steve Clifford would say mistakes are part of the game. They would trust the young player to learn from his mistake.
Fultz, for his part, promised it would not happen again if he was given the chance.
It is easy to forget just how young Fultz is after two battle-field years in the NBA. In his third season, he is still only 21 years old.
There is still a lot of learning for him to do as he goes through the NBA for the first time. While his peers have gotten experience and playing time, Fultz has had to work through his injury issues. This is really his first run through the league.
Fultz has gotten a lot thrown at him in a short amount of time. All of it earned as he has played fantastic to earn a spot in the Magic’s starting lineup. His impact is undoubtedly positive too. Fultz makes his team better and has them playing at the quicker tempo the Magic want.
But what has been most impressive is his resolve. He has been able to push through any fatigue and any struggles learning the league to find a way to play big.
This was a big stage and a big moment for him as the Orlando Magic arrived to face the Sacramento Kings. He had to bounce back from that key mistake in Friday’s game while playing the first point guard picked after him in that 2017 NBA Draft.
This kind of marquee matchup is something Fultz has not quite had yet in his career. There is an unspoken rivalry between the two guards and both showed up to play.
Fox would get the best of Fultz early, scoring nine points to Fultz’s zero in the first quarter.
But Fultz did not panic. Although he wanted to score and was up for the marquee matchup, he did not force it and let the game come to him. Playing with the poise and maturity that he has displayed on and off the court throughout his short time in the NBA.
Fultz’s time came in the second quarter.
He got it going, dishing out highlight-reel passes, taking his man off the dribble and shooting the ball with confidence. He hit a corner three late in the second quarter in rhythm and with no hesitation. The best he has looked shooting from deep all season.
He scored nine points in the second quarter and finished the game with 16 points, two assists and four rebounds.
Fultz played a vital role in the Magic’s narrow 114-112 victory over the Kings, running the show and chasing after key loose balls. With the Magic up two in the dying seconds, Fultz went diving on the floor to try to save a possession, getting a jump ball with a little more than two seconds left on the shot clock.
It did not ultimately prevent Fox from giving the Kings the lead. But the effort and energy is exactly what the Magic need from Fultz late in games.
He then would have a hand in contesting and deflecting away Harrison Barnes’ potential game-winning shot in the dying seconds. Fultz was on the floor having given his all to help the Magic preserve the victory.
It was a small play in a season that has seen Fultz show flashes of what made him the top overall pick.
He has had plenty of late-game moments already to help the Magic take a few victories. Even with his lack of experience, the magic trust him to bring the ball up and contribute when the game is on the line.
Even in a game where Fox, almost propelled the Kings past the Magic with a game-high 31 points, Fultz held his own and put on a show in his own right.
Fultz’s gritty performance came just days after he showed that rare vulnerability and acknowledged he made some rookie mistakes in their previous game Friday night. It is this resolve that should have Magic brass and fans eager to see him continue to grow now that his career has started up again.
Fultz responded in a major way against the Kings. Displaying maturity and poise well beyond his young age of 21.